The question was asked on the most recent edition of ZIZ's Working for You on Tuesday 15th August, by show presenter Lesroy Williams.
The question was fielded by Ervin Williams, Managing Director of the local National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (NTRC), who was a guest on the show along with the Commission's Chairman Cosbert Manchester and ECTEL Director Quincy Prentice, Nevis Director of Technology.
In answer to the question Williams said, "St. Kitts and Nevis was the first country in the Caribbean to attack that situation of establishing an IXP - Internet Exchange Point." We hear more in this clip from Working for You.
Williams, went on to explained what an IXP is and it's benefits "An IXP is a switch that keeps local internet traffic local. For example if Quincy Prentice wants to send me an e-mail, currently that e-mail goes from here to Miami, switches and returns. If someone in St. Martin were to send me an e-mail it would go to Miami probably via Puerto Rico, switch and then return."
"Likewise if your department in Government was trying to send something to Inland Revenue, is likely to go to Miami, switch and return. Now that's local data some of it might be private and confidential and you look at it in two aspects. One, where the information is of national interest and private and confidential, why would you want to risk having it traversing other territories to get back to you? When you could safeguard it by putting in an IXP, and having it routed safely within territory or within the region. Secondly, speed of delivery, it would cut the delivery time in nanoseconds.
Mr. Williams, explained that a Committee spearheaded by the IT Department, which is led by Ms. Amecia Mussenden, who is also a Commissioner on the NTRC had been formed to implement the IXP. We have the switch here in St. Kitts, and they are building a framework, with the necessary policies and procedures. While not wanting to speak for the Director of Technology, Mr. Williams went onto say that, "I think we should have the IXP established probably within the first half of next year or before."
The concern is that by Williams' own, admission St. Kitts and Nevis was the first country to begin the movement towards implementing an IXP, yet the country is still unable to enjoy any of the benefits extolled! It has already been five long years since Packet Clearing House (PCH) donated the Internet Route Server, "the switch" as the pre-cursor to establishing the first IXP in the region.
In that time a raft of other countries have all beaten us to the punch! Countries as far north as the Bahamas and Haiti to Trinidad & Tobago in the south, all have IXPs. Indeed, of the five ECTEL Member states we're the only country not to have an IXP in operation! It's hard to conceive that the operational requirements of an IXP in St. Kitts and Nevis would differ so significantly, that we cannot simply adopt the framework in use by the other four member states.
My guess, better yet my advice to stakeholders in the Federation is to watch and pray, no be vigilant and press the NTRC and Department of Technology to deliver.
Jamaican Community Access Points To Be Powered By Solar Energy
Jamaica's Science, Energy and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley has announced plans for the utilisation of solar energy to power the more than 250 community access points (CAPs) providing public Internet and technology services islandwide.
This, Dr Wheatley said, is in order to reduce the high costs associated with operating the facilities and to ensure their sustainability. He was addressing yesterday's official opening of the $3.5-million Annotto Bay computer resource centre in St Mary, which was developed by the Universal Service Fund (USF), an agency of the ministry.
He noted that the ministry took the decision to provide solar-energy solutions, following a 2016 audit of the CAPs, which revealed that just over 70 were operating inefficiently, mainly due to high energy costs.
"We made a decision that... all sites must have, as a critical component, solar solutions. This is important in order to remove that burden... of the high cost of (electricity) from the communities," he said. He added that the solar project "is part of the sustainability programme of the USF". The USF's Director of Projects, Everold Simms, said that plans are being developed for the initial installation of solar solutions in six pilot centres and, thereafter, an overall rollout of the engagement.
The new CAP in Annotto Bay is the 256th facility that the USF has established and the seventh in St Mary.
Trinidad Parliamentarian Urges Gov't To Act On Cyber Laws
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is being urged to introduce legislation to protect citizens from the backlash of personal information and compromising photos being posted on social media platforms.
The call comes from Public Services Association president and Tobago House of Assembly Minority leader Watson Duke, who said it was grossly unfair what members of the public had to endure after such incidents.
"I am hereby calling upon the executive of the Government of T&T, led by Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley, to do the honourable thing and enact law to protect citizens against abuse on social media.
"Too much private information on persons' personal lives is being leaked on social media and creating havoc in the home. Social media should not be used to shame people, but rather for building social relationships."
Duke's call came hours after compromising photos of a woman clad in a police uniform was circulated via social media over the weekend.
Following the release of the photos, thousands of comments were posted about the officer's conduct, with some calling for her dismissal from the profession while also speculating about the effect it would have on the woman's personal and family relations. The T&T Police Service has since launched a probe into that matter.
Duke said while there were limitless uses for social media, such as education, maintaining relationships and keeping informed of the latest news, "embarrassing people and trying to put people out of work is not the purpose of social media, so therefore I am calling on the government to act with great haste before we have a country of wounded people."
Contacted on the matter, Public Administration and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie assured that Government was working on several pieces of legislation to address the issue. In a release yesterday, he said the Data Protection Act and the Cybercrime Bill would effectively address the appropriate management and dissemination of content in the era of new media.
The Data Protection Act seeks to protect the personal privacy and information that is held by public bodies and the private sector. Cuffie said this act contained, "built in safeguards."
PitchIT Caribbean, under the remit of the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP), is a two-tiered partnership approach to support growth-oriented mobile app businesses in the Caribbean. The programme is designed to strengthen the Caribbean mobile innovation ecosystem and enable sustainable and competitive mobile enterprises to grow through activities that will target early stage innovators and guide them to market readiness. The aim is for the creation of a regional pool of high-growth potential mobile start-ups with the capacity to release their apps to the market and raise additional capital to grow.
I spoke with Melissa Johnson Senior Projects and Portfolio Officer at UWI and Project Manager at PitchIT Caribbean to find out more about PitchIT and the opportunities offered by Slush 2017. I began by asking her to give some background on PitchIT Caribbean.
"PitchIT is an offshoot of CMIP the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Programme we work specifically with entrepreneurs in the tech and tech enabled business field. Intended to support startups support entrepreneurial development and contribute to the growth of the Caribbean Tech ecosystem"
I asked how the Caribbean is participating in this year's Slush Global Impact Accelerator, and what activities are being held?
"So the slush Caribbean Global Impact Accelerator qualifying competition is the entry point for Caribbean tech firms with the solutions to key global challenges, and who are focused on Impact being able to interact with their global colleagues in Helsinki Finland. It is open to entrepreneurs who are operating registered businesses and was incomes are not exceeding a million pounds and who are very much focused on impact and really changing the landscape of the spaces in which they operate. All tech firms are eligible to apply it's not just persons who may have been a part of the PitchIT Caribbean programme."
I asked if past participants of PitchIT activities participate?
"The competition is also open to entrepreneurs who are in PitchIT, who are currently or have been part of the hubs. Those are the support firms who have been providing much-needed support in terms of advice, guidance and incubation services to entrepreneurs across the Caribbean."
Slush Global Impact Accelerator is a programme created in collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and multiple global partners. The purpose of GIA is to create a leading global programme to support startups that are looking to solve some of the most pressing global challenges and to contribute to the discussion on impact investing.
Slush Global Impact Accelerator 2017 brings impactful entrepreneurs from emerging markets to Helsinki to accelerate their business, attract additional financing and make an even greater impact on their societies and beyond. The programme includes online pre-event coaching and the Helsinki boot camp programme from November 22–December 2, 2017 culminating in Slush.
The deadline for the Caribbean competition is the 23rd August and persons interested in taking part can apply here, http://www.pitchitcaribbean.com/community/slush/
Jamaica Is Pushing The Boundaries In Geospatial Mapping
In an interview with the BBC the head of Jamaica's National Spatial Data Division Rowan Richards explain how the country is using geospatial data to improve disaster recovery planning and preparation.
Mr. Richards said, "Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean we sit smack in the middle of the line of attack where hurricanes are concerned and we can utilise a lot of data that is available within the map arena to deploy resources if a hurricane hits us. Also, if a certain area is particularly vulnerable where will most flooding occur? Or what is the social economic and other demographic characteristics of a particular area? So utilising all of that information we can provide better responses to disasters."
Richards also explained some of the challenges that his department had to overcome in making this data freely available, saying:
"You know that is something that has always been in a challenge not just in Jamaica, but across the entire Caribbean. The private sector needs information in order to help with the advanced development in various different areas. We have been working out within all government as well as a push at the United Nations level to ensure that there is free and open access geospatial data."
He also gave an example of how geospatial information can be used to market the tourism dependent country
I'm extremely optimistic. Can you imagine, a country like Jamaica which depends on tourism. As a tourist before I actually come to Jamaica and this is a plug for Jamaica. I can go into my computer, look at what a particular site might look like, take a virtual walk along that site along that road, see what the surrounding conditions are. I am completely optimistic. A couple years ago we weren't at this stage and now we are at a stage where all our entities have come together for sharing to members of the public.
Facilitating Innovation In Corporate Trinidad and Tobago
With the aim of facilitating a greater awareness of programmes which will assist businesses to incorporate innovation into their processes, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) in partnership with the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) hosted a session entitled 'Encouraging Innovation in Corporate TT'.
CARIRI and the CCIC have established a strong relationship that is built on both organizations' desire for diversification and growth in the economy.
This particular session was geared towards promoting the intent of the CCIC to remain proactive in providing avenues for businesses in the Central area and this was the platform that CARIRI chose to promote two new initiatives geared toward assisting organisations.
The first is the Innovation Gap Analysis Programme (iGap) which is intended to identify and engage potential innovations in existing companies and will also address the need to develop a culture of Innovation in private sector enterprises, particularly SMEs. This initiative is based on the recognition that SMEs are particularly vulnerable to the rapidly changing dynamics of the international economic environment and, to remain competitive, these enterprises must keep their value proposition current, relevant and valuable to customers.
The Data Innovation Solutions Centre (DISC) is the second initiative. It involves Business Intelligence and Data Analytics which will use the respective organisations' data to provide information that can assist in making more sustainable and innovative business decisions.
Director of Technology in the Nevis Island Administration, Mr. Quincy Prentice attended CANTO's Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and was impressed by what he saw. Attending for the first time he said that he would be keen to attend next year if possible.
Prentice was attending the conference as part of the delegation from ECTEL, the St. Lucian based Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Regulator. We spoke to Mr Prentice after the event for his thoughts on the week long conference and activities.
I asked what were the key points he took away from the conference?
"Firstly I would say collaboration, collaboration, collaboration, the need for regional governments to work more closely together in the development In the development and deployment of ICT platforms and knowledge sharing as a means of Accelerating the rate of which technology can be successfully deployed by the region as a whole. This view was promulgated by The Honourable Darcy Boyce from Barbados and others and indeed there is also a proposal on the table from the CARICOM on level for the creation of a single ICT space so I would certainly say collaboration and the need for greater need for collaboration on a regional level is one of the key take aways."
Prentice also mentioned the issue of convergence and OTTs.
"Another key takeaway is the issue of convergence we heard quite a bit About the over-the-top services from the service providers and they call for the regional regulators to regulate these entities as well. we have also seen some opposing views such as professor Gilbert Morris Dr Paul Golding in terms of the need for the regional telcos to adapt their business models to the existing market conditions. So, certainly convergence is an issue that is here to stay."
NIHERST Launches Its Caribbean Youth Science Forum 2017
Trinidad & Tobago's National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST) is launching its Caribbean Youth Science Forum (CYSF) 2017 for regional Lower Sixth Form science students.
In a release, NIHERST said CYSF is intended to develop the next generation of science and technology professionals from the Caribbean region whose knowledge and skills contribute to the improvement of society.
This 16th instalment of CYSF runs from August 6th-13th, providing its participants with an invaluable opportunity to increase their knowledge, broaden their horizons, and develop a strong sense of regional identity as they engage with top professionals in diverse STI fields and their peers from other countries.
All forum activities are ultimately geared towards providing opportunities for students to develop 21st century skills which are absolutely critical to their personal and professional development in the future.
The programme promises to cover topics including artificial intelligence and computer vision, surgical sciences, art psychotherapy, forensic pathology, chemical engineering, deep sea exploration, food and agricultural technology and the oil and gas industry.
This year's distinguished visiting keynote speaker is Dr. Naila Murray. A native of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Murray is currently a senior scientist and manager of the computer vision group at Naver Labs Europe (formerly known as Xerox Research Centre Europe), where she actively conducts research, and coordinates the research efforts of her team.
Her work in computer vision enables machines such as computers and smartphones to automatically understand visual content such as images and videos. This understanding leads to applications such as automated image and video tagging, aesthetics prediction, and visual attention modelling. She is the recipient of the 2014 Frank Rampersad Award for Junior Scientist, awarded by NIHERST.
We Need More Content Says, Antigua & Barbuda's Minister Nicholas
At, CANTO's 33rd annual conference and trade show which took place in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Antigua & Barbuda's Telecommunications Minister Melford Nicholas, drew parallels with former President Bill Clinton's quote "it's the economy stupid", as he championed the digital equivalent "Content is King!"
On the sidelines of the conference, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Minister Nicholas on various matters of ICT development when he raised the issue of content creation.
"We need to move beyond the primary level of production, we need to be higher up the value chain and offer the finished product. And I think the area where we will be able to get the best bang for our buck is that there is no replication of Louise Bennett, there's no replication of Paul Keens-Douglas or Viv Richards, these are the people we have! Look at the strength we had in cricket, where we have allowed an American company to become the virtual repository for the information of cricket. They have taken over from Wisden, Cricinfo is now owned by ESPN. But we have been such giants of cricket and we do not have our own regional repository for cricket. We had Tony Cozier, Reds Perreira is still alive."
"It is new thinking, that I'm saying that we need to create some of those information portals in our own territories and get them branded. They have to be branded effectively so that we are able to utilise the same advertising models, and we bring eyes to our portals, and hence we're able to connect businesses to consumers in a real way."
Minister with responsibility for energy, Senator Darcy Boyce, says they are looking at ways to implement energy efficient solutions in Barbados, for both households and government.
As the country strives to reduce its electricity consumption, he says they have been working on strategies to see how seamlessly this can be done. But added that they do not want householders to feel the pinch of having to borrow to replace their appliances since this can be tedious.
As the Senate yesterday looked at the Offshore Petroleum Amendment Bill 2017, Senator Boyce disclosed they are in discussions with the Caribbean Development Bank to explore a means for householders to avail themselves of solar PV systems, without putting themselves in additional debt with commercial banks.
Senator Boyce says more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of renewable energy. He indicated that several manufacturers have been seeking guidance as to how to make their factories and businesses more energy efficient, so they can reduce their cost of operations, which ultimately reduces government importation of fuel.
"We are pushing hard to get some more energy efficient solutions both within the government and the wider community. We are at the moment discussing with the funding agencies a matter of how under the distribution company [Barbados Light and Power], how do we incorporate energy efficient opportunities within the country," he explained.
Senator Boyce says it is imperative that Barbadians see the benefit that the shifting to this sector can bring to them at an individual level and to the country and economy as a whole.
Airbnb Inks Yet Another Caribbean Nation
Antigua and Barbuda has become the latest Caribbean nation to announce an agreement with home-say provider Airbnb. The country's Ministry of Tourism and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority will work with Airbnb to "drive diversified and sustainable tourism" to the twin-island nation and "begin dialogue about a framework for taxation on accommodation," the parties said in a statement last week.
The agreement mirrors recent pacts Airbnb has reached with other Caribbean destinations as well as the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) as the company's accommodations continue to increase across the region. Antigua and Barbuda maintains more than 500 Airbnb listings, said company officials.
Airbnb guest arrivals to the country have increased by 53 percent in the past year, with groups tending to stay about six nights. An average Airbnb host earns about $5,700 annually from their listing.
The agreement will allow Airbnb to "contribute [to the] local community and government," officials said. The company "has been consistently collaborating with several governments in the Caribbean as well as the CTO as the region acknowledges the growing importance of home sharing in the local economy and for residents to participate in the bounty of tourism."
"Today is an important step in further strengthening the tourism industry in Antigua and Barbuda by signing this partnership with Airbnb," said Asot A. Michael, the country's minister of tourism, economic development, investment and energy.
"Airbnb is the largest game changer in the accommodation sector. By working with them, we will ensure that Antigua and Barbuda is interacting with the full spectrum of visitors."
"Our joint efforts will highlight the culture, heritage and hospitality of local residents," added Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb's public policy director for Central America and the Caribbean.
CXC Connect Officially Launched In Guyana
The CXC Connect mobile application launched in Guyana on Wednesday, by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), is intended to make communicating with the body easy and accessible to students, teachers and parents.
Minister of Education Nicolette Henry commended CXC for the initiative. Information Communication Technology (ICT) provides a chance for countries to be globally competitive in innovation and education, the Education Minister said, noting that this new app will provide a new platform for CXC stakeholders.
She said that government has been working tirelessly to improve the educational landscape nationwide adding, "One of the first challenges that this government faced and sought to address was that of the glaring inequality in and across the education sector here in Guyana." The Ministry is currently exploring telecommunications system reform and the expansion of ICT infrastructure across the country, Minister Henry also noted. It was explained by CXC's Director of Operations Stephen Savoury that over the years, CXC has conducted many stakeholder engagement sessions but the biggest complaint has been a lack of communication.
Hence, he said, the idea of an app came into being, to improve communication with stakeholders. The app is designed for both Android and iOS devices. The five main features of the app are the news feed, frequently asked questions, live chat, events and access to examinations results.
CARICOM Deputy Programme Manager, ICT for Development Jennifer Britton, said that in Guyana there is a motto: buy local, eat local, and urged persons to treat the app as their own, "This app is a local product. This is a SMART solution and I am confident it will make a difference in the education and ICT systems of the region. We are duty-bound to support the CXC by downloading the app".
Britton also added that technology and education are important instruments, central to CARICOM's regional development. Students in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago already use the app, which will be launched in Jamaica soon.
With an increasing number of Jamaican Nationals with technology skills unable to find work and put them to use. The government of Jamaica is addressing the issue head on through the development of a technology investment fund. Jamaica's minister of Science, Energy and Technology The Honorable Dr Andrew Wheatley made the disclosure in an interview at Canto 33 in the Dominican Republic
Minister Wheatley said: "We are now looking to roll-out a Technology Innovation fund to support innovation and that is something we take very seriously. Ensuring that we do not have that brain drain anymore where our youths migrate and leave our shores and go to other countries because they're looking for opportunities to express themselves, so what we are doing is to create an environment that allows for them to express themselves."
Over The Top Services OTTs Are Here To Stay
For several months if not years then incumbent Telecoms have complained that over the top services such as WhatsApp and Netflix are providing unfair competition to the regular telephone and internet service providers.
However there seems to be some agreement among Ministers of telecommunications in the region that over-the-top services are here to stay.
Here is what Minister Melford Nicholas of Antigua and Barbuda had to say earlier this week when talking about the matter of over-the-top service:
"In my view I think it has become a settled issue that OTTS are here to stay, that the business model of telecommunications is going to be driven by data and it is going to be driven by the whole IP platform and data."
And Jamaica's Minister with responsibility for Telecommunications Dr. Andrew Wheatley could not have been more clear speaking on the sidelines of CANTO 33 in the Dominican Republic. Min. Wheatley, said "
OTTs more or less speaks to innovation, they are a response to a demand and as such they provide opportunities to be more innovative. We should not stifle Innovation and I do not believe that a government should try to regulate OTTs into oblivion. They're here to stay and they are part of the landscape, it is for the operators to be Innovative themselves and to move away from the old traditional business model. It's about being more Innovative on all fronts.
SPISE Making Robotics Push
With the aim of creating the next Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page, the Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) kicked off last Saturday at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus.
The 2017 SPISE cohort consists of 24 secondary school students from 13 Caribbean countries. They will be immersed in an intensive programme consisting of physics, calculus, biochemistry, robotics, computer programming and entrepreneurship until August 14th.
The students who are admitted into the programme are scholars in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The programme, in its sixth year, was established by interim executive director Cardinal Warde and co-executive director Dinah Sah of the Caribbean Science Foundation. It is modelled after the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) hosted by the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology, and aims to ensure that the Caribbean has a stake in grooming the next generation of technological business leaders.